What is Farm to School?

Farm to School programs bring healthy, local and sustainable food into schools and provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that foster food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness.

Core Elements of Farm to School

Farm to School empowers students and school communities to make informed food choices while contributing to vibrant, sustainable regional food systems that support the health of people, place and planet. Farm to school programs differ by school, but always include one or more of the following:

Healthy, Local Food

Schools source local food in a variety of ways, including through direct farmer relationships, food distributors, schoolyard farms, or the harvesting of wild or traditional foods. When local food arrives in schools it is often served in the form of a salad bar, hot lunch program, tasting activity, fundraiser, or community celebration.

Hands-on Learning

Food literacy is a critically important component of Farm to School programs. Step into any school offering a Farm to School program and you will find students learning about food in the school garden, greenhouse, kitchen, lunchroom or classroom. They may also be getting ready for field trips to local farms, forests and shores.

School & Community Connectedness

The most successful and sustainable Farm to School programs are built upon strong relationships. Schools establish relationships with farmers, community members, and support organizations, tapping into local knowledge passion, skills and resources.

Sustainable Regional Food Systems

The Farm to School BC Network and movement is dedicated to supporting the development of sustainable regional food systems in British Columbia. Please refer to the short paper recently published by the BC Food Systems Network on Regional Food Economies to get a sense of what a regional food system entails.

With regards to sustainable food systems, Farm to School BC follows the following definition:

A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to
enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being. It is built on principles that
further the ecological, social and economic values of a community and region. Characteristics of a
sustainable food system are outline below (based on Pothukuchi and Jufman, 1999):

  • is secure, and therefore reliable and resilient to change (including climate change, rising
    energy prices, etc) and accessible and affordable to all members of society;
  • is energy efficient;
  • is an economic generator for farmers, whole communities and regions;
  •  is healthy and safe;
  • is environmentally beneficial or benign;
  • uses creative water reclamation and conservation strategies for agricultural irrigation;
  • balances food imports with local capacity;
  • adopts regionally-appropriate agricultural practices and crop choices;
  • works towards organic farming;
  • contributes to both community and ecological health;
  • builds soil quality and farmland through the recycling of organic waste;
  • supports multiple forms of urban as well as rural food production;
  • ensures that food processing facilities are available to farmers and processors;
  • is celebrated through community events, markets, restaurants, etc;
  • preserves biodiversity in agro-ecosystems as well as in the crop selection;
  • has a strong educational focus to create awareness of food and agricultural issues; and
  • is fairly traded by providing a fair wage to producers and processors locally and abroad.